Study Guide

Alas, Babylon Chapter 2

By Pat Frank

Chapter 2

  • It's now 11:00 AM.
  • While driving his sports car, Randy tunes into the latest news report.
  • Everything has, uh, suddenly gotten better, right?
  • Nope. Tension continues to brew between Russia and the United States, with Syria serving as the proxy battlefield for these two world powers.
  • How completely unrealistic.
  • Meanwhile, at noon, Florence meets her bestie Alice Cooksey for lunch at a local spot called the Pink Flamingo. So Florida.
  • Alice has been beefing with Kitty Offenhaus, wife of Luther "Bubba" Offenhaus, the local mortician. It should tell you something that he's the most prosperous business-person in town.
  • Bubba is also the "Deputy Director of Civil Defense for the whole county" (2.10).
  • Anyways, Kitty and Bubba are mad at Alice for stocking pro-Civil Rights literature in the local library, which she happens to run.
  • Alice tells them to stuff it, more or less. 'Atta girl.
  • Inspired by this powerful political stance, Florence...tells Alice about Randy being a peeping tom. Not quite the same, girl. Either way, Alice doesn't buy Florence's story.
  • Speaking of those Bragg boys, says Florence, Mark sure sent a funny message by telegram today. Something about "Alas, Babylon" and whatnot. Sounds like nonsense.
  • Before they depart, Florence asks Alice if she wants to stay over and stake out Randy. Alice responds (and we're paraphrasing) that she'd rather gargle dish detergent.
  • When she returns to the library, Alice pops open the Bible, confirming her suspicion that Mark's quote comes from the Book of Revelation: "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come" (2.37). Dark.
  • Alice must be the smartest librarian on the planet, because she immediately realizes that Mark is referring to nuclear war. Impressive.
  • On second thought, she says to Florence on the phone minutes later, how about that sleepover?
  • At the same time, Randy arrives at Base McCoy. He chats with a soldier named Paul Hart, and based on their conversation, the war machine is gearing up. Yikes.
  • Mark's plane arrives. There's a big procession of generals and then, finally, Mark. The two brothers greet each other and go somewhere private to talk.
  • Randy listens as Mark lays out his family's itinerary. He'll be staying in Omaha, where the SAC is headquartered.
  • Then he gets to the juicy stuff: the nuclear stuff.
  • The top-of-the-ticket item is that Russia has wrested control of the Mediterranean, an impressive feat that doesn't bode well for NATO.
  • Mark suspects that Russia is planning a quick, sudden strike to wipe out as much of America's nuclear arsenal as possible, even if it means "losing ten or twenty million people" of their own people in the process (2.84).
  • Randy is ticked that the government has been keeping this stuff secret. People should be stockpiling and preparing, not skipping around like everything is swell.
  • To make things worse, there are four unidentified Russian submarines currently poking around in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. That's not a good sign.
  • Unfortunately, Mark has to leave, so that's all the inside info we'll get for now. He slips Randy a five-thousand-dollar check for supplies before leaving.
  • Though he puts on a stoic face during their goodbye, Randy can hardly hold back the tears when he returns to his car.

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